How to Celebrate St. Patrick's Day in St. Louis

Saint Patrick's Day is a special time of year in St. Louis, and not just because we all get to be honorary Guinness-guzzling Irish for a few days.

It's also a celebration of the end of the brutal winter and the reemergence of spring. It's an excuse to take a Thursday off work and party with tens of thousands of friends in Dogtown. And, most importantly, it signals that enough time has passed since the Soulard Mardi Gras Parade that we can show our faces in public again.

Whether you're looking for a wild booze bash or a wholesome, family-friendly gathering, you'll find a St Patty's day event in St. Louis that's sure to tickle your Blarney Stone. Here are the top five ways to live it up like the luckiest little leprechaun in the "Gateway City" this year:

Check out the Parade

One of the country's most well-attended St. Patty's Day celebrations, the annual downtown parade features more than 100 units and a festive array of balloons, bands, and floats. The parade kicks off at noon on Saturday, March 12th and travels from Market and 18th up to Kiener Plaza.

Stick around afterwards to partake in Irish Village at Kiener Plaza, complete with Irish foods, drinks, and live music. Patchwork caps, tweed jackets, and "Kiss Me – I'm Irish" tee-shirts are the recommended attire.

Check out the Other Parade

How enamored is St. Louis with St. Patrick's Day? So much so that just one parade just won't cut it.

Held each year in the largely Irish "Dogtown" neighborhood, the Ancient Order of the Hibernians Parade is one of St. Louis's most colorful annual street parties. Unlike the corporatized downtown parade, the Dogtown gala is less polished and more authentically Irish, boasting (in lieu of colossal floats) marching bands, dancers, entertainers, and Irish families showing off their crests.

If mega crowds keep those Irish eyes of yours smiling, head towards the parade's main gathering place, the intersection of Clayton and Tamm. For more wiggle room, venture south towards St. James the Greater Church, near the end of the parade route. Showtime is March 17th at 12:30 p.m.

Check out the Other, Other Parade

Some people may think three Irish parades for one medium-sized city is excessive; it's not like half of us just got off the boat from Dublin or Cork, after all. But don't tell that to the 50,000 festivalgoers who line Weiss Rd and Highway N in suburban Cottleville each year for the Cottleville St. Patrick's Day parade.

The most kid-friendly parade option in the metro area, the Cottleville celebration features 100 floats and dozens of clowns, artists, face painters, bounce houses, and food trucks. Catch the complimentary shuttle at St. Charles Community College to join in the fun. The parade stretches from the intersection of Hwy N and Weiss, through historic downtown Cottleville, to Francis Howell Central.

Enjoy a Parade of Irish Pub Grub & Activities

A lot of bars will put a serious dent in their Guinness and Jameson supplies in the next week, but no watering hole does the Irish justice like Tigin's Irish Pub. Swing by Sunday, March 13th to see Celtica perform their lively brand of traditional Irish and Celtic music, then stick around for the annual St. Baldrick's Head Shaving event to help raise money for kids' cancer research (visit their website to see how you can help).

Come back to Tigin's on Tuesday night for an Irish-themed pub quiz with prizes and drink specials, then again on St. Patrick's Day morning for a pancake-and-pint breakfast. Live music, drink specials, and dudes pretending to be Irish in hopes that girls will kiss them will round out the day.

Stay In and Escape the Parade Madness

St. Patrick's Day in St. Louis is a weeklong event, so at some point, you'll probably want to hole up and enjoy a day away from the hustle and bustle. When you do, embrace your inner Irish (no matter where you're from) and fire up some Guinness lamb stew or Bailey's cheesecake brownies. Check out this Huffington Post article for more decadent and authentic Irish recipes.

Happy St. Patrick's Day, and may the joy and luck of the Irish be with you always!

McMarcus O'Whelchel lives, works, and writes in St. Louis, with his wife and daughter. He can only say the words "Irish Wristwatch" when he's had a pint or 12.